Seize the Rainbow

I ignored my own advice and did not attend Sunday’s Collect-i-Bowl record show at Brooklyn Bowl. (Robert Baird was there, though, and says it was a great and delicious time.) I did, however, attend Saturday’s Record Riot in Jersey City, sponsored in part by Steve Gritzan of Jersey City’s own vinyl speakeasy, Iris Records. Because I’ve been spending so much money on records lately, I told myself that I would not spend more than $20. Well, you know how it goes: $20 soon became $40, and so on.

But, whatever: I’m richer in vinyl.

I picked up unloved copies of Fred Frith’s wildly joyous Gravity; Grace Jones’ radical Living My Life; the psychedelic funk-soul jam session, Ambergris, produced by Steve Cropper and featuring Latin jazz players, Larry Harlow and Lewis Khan, alongside Blood, Sweat, and Tears’ founder Jerry Weiss; Bill Laswell’s hip-shaking Baselines on the very cool Elektra/Musician imprint; the Sonny Sharrock Band’s blissful Seize the Rainbow; and a white label copy of John Fahey’s soulful Of Rivers and Religion. Those last two were marked as “so-so condition,” and discounted accordingly. My heart raced as I freed the jackets from their protective outer sleeves, pulled out the old inner sleeves, and carefully inspected the vinyl.

This whole process has become as comfortable and natural to me as getting dressed in the cold, quiet morning, but I clearly remember when it was foreign, frustrating, and awkward. Somewhere along the way, I must’ve become smarter than the average record dealer because it took only a cursory glance for me to realize that there was nothing terribly wrong with either of these two gems. They would be mine. And at crazily discounted prices! (Hooray!)

Prior to my discoveries, I noticed Steve Gritzan chatting with a customer. I approached just in time to hear the customer mention Stereophile and my March issue column, which includes a bit about Iris Records. I was surprised. As the customer walked away, I greeted Steve and he thanked me for the article.

“No problem,” I said. “Have you seen it yet?”

“No. I wish I had. People keep telling me about it!”

“Really? I’m always surprised to find out that people actually read the magazine.”

“Ha! I’ve heard about it from at least six people today!”

I was sort of shocked. I wanted to scream out loud: “Here I am, people! I wrote that article! Talk to me!” But I didn’t, of course.

“I’ll bring a couple of copies to the store for you,” I said.

“That would be great. Thanks so much for being here.”

“My pleasure.”

Back at home, I set Seize the Rainbow on the platter of Uncle Omar’s Rega P1 (which I’ve held onto as my main source for “The Entry Level”), and let the Hunt EDA record brush take care of the topmost layers of dust and dirt. A few strokes of the brush did a fantastic job and allowed me to feel comfortable setting stylus to groove. The music practically leapt from the speakers with years of pent up energy and tension, sounding just as fresh and glorious today as I imagine it did upon its release in 1987: Sharrock swerves between free-jazz skronk, hardcore punk rock riffing, and golden-hued effervescence, while Melvin Gibbs keeps time on bass with dueling drummers Abe Speller and Pheeroan akLaff. The system (Rega P1 with Ortofon 2M Red cartridge, NAD PP3 USB phono preamp, Cambridge Audio Azur 340A integrated amp, Klipsch Synergy B-20 loudspeakers, and RadioShack cables) had no problem defining the musicians and their instruments in space—it was especially awesome to hear the two drummers communicating through high-hat, snare, and kick drum—and Sharrock’s beautiful tone filled my listening room with vibrant color and stunning sunshine.

Fahey’s Of Rivers and Religions was in a bit worse shape, but I knew that it would be—markings on the vinyl suggested mold (or something similarly gross), and would have to be treated with a good enzymatic cleaner. Though I did play a side of the record, it sounded very dirty. Fortunately, Jim Pendleton of Osage Audio has just sent me a complete set of his Audio Intelligent Vinyl Solutions. The system includes an Enzymatic Formula ($25/16 ounces), Super Cleaner Formula ($25/16 ounces), Premium Archivist Formula ($25/16 ounces), Ultra-Pure Water ($16/16 ounces), Premium One-Step Formula No.6 ($29/32 ounces), and Premium Record Cleaner Formula No.15 ($29/16 ounces), and allows the user to customize the cleaning process to his needs and preferences.

I’ve never used the Audio Intelligent products, but I’ve been curious about them for a long time, so I’m looking forward to experimenting. I’ll let you know how it goes. For more info on the Audio Intelligent Vinyl Solutions, visit the website, where you’ll find a treasure of information on the history and art of record cleaning.

Matching_Mole's picture

Stephen, I've really been enjoying your stories in the magazine. In particular, reading about your discovering music that is near and dear to me -- The Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt, and so on -- is particularly refreshing. Especially in an Audiophile Context, where people usually just want to talk about Diana Krall and Jennifer Warnes.

And you've turned me on to stuff too: Bushman’s Revenge's "Jitterbug" is a killer!

Keep it up! Oh, and be on the lookout for records from Last Exit -- an impromptu jam band with Sharrock, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Peter Brötzmann, and Bill Laswell. They're kind of a 1980s version of the fusion incarnation of The Soft Machine.

Oh, and the enzymatic Audio Intelligent cleaner is the best I've ever cleaned my LPs with, and I just use a cheapo Record Doctor II machine. It works a charm.

discjockey2006's picture

Dear Stephen,

Love your columns, you deserve to get laid!!!!

One thing has been bothering me for some time: the wicked Ortofon 2M Red cart.

You mention using your uncle's and seem happy with it on a Rega TT.

More in the Mikey and Art league than your "entry level" stuff, and having been an Ortofon adddict for the past 20 years with their incredibly good performance/price ratio, mostly living with their MC models (I own most of them), I decided to buy a 2M red (85 Euros here) and give it a try/spin.

It was a major disapointment. At the recommended VTF of 1.8g (bias set accordingly) on an SME 3012 II and later SME 312, the "Red" horribly mistracked the +16dB track on Hi-Fi News test record HFN 001. Of course I don't listen to test records for pleasure but on a music record like Dr. Hook's "Only Sisteen" on Capitol 45 #4171, the plucked guitar chord at the beginning of the bridge just made the sylus skip!!!

Now I get so-so results with a 2.4g VTF. Better sibilants, better tracking, but ironically the modest OM 5E fared better at 1.75g VTF!!!!!

Can you shed a light on my little problem, adnd thank you for the great reading you provide.